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Delaware Center for Health Innovations (DCHI) – Profiling Innovation and Response from the Frontline

The Delaware Center for Health Innovation (DCHI) is pleased to highlight two of the many community organizations that are delivering care to our community and healthcare workers, and investing in efforts to best support communities most impacted by COVID-19. Westside Family Healthcare and Healthy Communities Delaware share how their organizations have responded to the crisis, and their proactive efforts to ensure greater capacity and future readiness to address public health needs in the aftermath of the pandemic and in the event of future crises.

Westside Family Healthcare, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Delaware, remains open for care. In response to the COVID19 pandemic, Westside quickly pivoted in how they deliver care to their patients and in the communities they serve.

  • Access to Care – Keeping vulnerable patients healthy is their highest priority. From the onset of the COVID outbreak, Westside deployed extensive safety precautions to protect their patients and staff including rigorous cleaning protocols and a COVID-19 symptom screening process for everyone entering the health center. Additionally, they implemented cohorting in-person visits to create well and sick care sessions and launched a telehealth program to provide care by video or phone for some services. For their most at-risk patients, Westside is deploying remote patient monitoring equipment, such as automatic blood pressure cuffs to track blood pressure for some prenatal patients and patients with hypertension. Westside continues to provide wrap around services by phone consultation for their patients. The enrollment services staff are assessing financial needs to enable access to care, especially as community members experience unprecedented economic hardships. The social services team is helping patients who are in need of food, housing, or basic household items. Every day, Westside continues to meet the basic primary care needs of their patients.
  • Team Safety – To protect the workforce, Westside swiftly instituted administrative controls, safe work practices, and/or issuance of personal protective equipment following CDC and Delaware Division of Public Health guidelines. A COVID-19 Task Force leads a rapid response process for decisive action and communicates organization-wide briefings keeping team members up to date. Continuous infection prevention measures, including cleaning waiting areas and high-touch surfaces every 45 minutes, cleaning exam rooms between patient visits, immediately rooming patients with a diagnosis or symptoms of COVID-19, plastic barriers affixed to reception desks, and universal masking in Westside buildings provides a safe work environment. Thirty percent of the workforce shifted to telework from home, when possible, to conserve PPE and other supplies. Through teamwork, Westside preserves the health and safety of team members so that the organization can continue to function and serve the needs of its patients.

  • Community Support – Westside is responding to community-based needs by:
    • Providing staff capacity to facilitate community-wide testing events with the State of Delaware, health systems, and other community health centers.
    • Working with partner nonprofits to distribute basic hygiene and food items directly to households in need.
    • Assembling and distributing home safety kits for the seasonal and migrant farmworker community in Kent and Sussex Counties.

Healthy Communities Delaware (HCD) is a public-private partnership aiming to increase health and equity in low-wealth Delaware communities. They work in partnership with communities to address resident priorities around the social determinants of health – conditions into which we are born, live, learn, work and age. Many Delawareans lack the basic resources for health and well-being—safe and healthy homes, a quality education, meaningful employment, a healthy environment, access to healthy foods, financial stability and reliable transportation. Many of these inequities are a result of and perpetuated by structural racism and discrimination.

While the above are and have been challenges for low-income Delawareans every day, they are exacerbated during the coronavirus pandemic. Low-resourced families, especially those of color, are disproportionately losing jobs and income, or continuing to labor in low-wage jobs that put them at higher risk for exposure (e.g., grocery, fast-food, and poultry plant workers). After exposure and testing, low-wealth populations are also less able to comply with isolation or quarantine recommendations due to lack of disposable income, multi-generational housing, and/or single-parent or grandparent-led households.

Like many organizations, Healthy Communities Delaware has considered ways in which they may need to pivot to best support communities most impacted by COVID-19. They have done this by:

  • Participating in the leadership and review teams for the COVID-19 Strategic Response Fund, facilitated by the Delaware philanthropic community to benefit DE non-profits.
  • Supporting their collaborating communities to modify the scope of work for their HCD funding to address changing community needs.
  • Working with others to understand the impact of COVID-19 on social determinants of health at the community level.
  • Seeking additional sources of funding to bring more resources to collaborating communities, and specifically to community-based organizations serving residents in need.

The impacts of the coronavirus will be with us for some time and will continue to weigh most heavily on low-wealth and black and brown communities. This an opportunity for all of us, as organizations and individuals, to consider the power and privilege we hold, and how we can use it to change the systems, policies and practices that hold these inequities in place. At Healthy Communities Delaware, their goal is to help facilitate alignment, investment and impact to improve health and equity. They welcome your thoughts about opportunities to leverage their collective knowledge, capacity and resources for change.